I’ve read the book of John more times than I can tell you. I can name all the disciples for you – usually to the tune of “There Were Twelve Disciples”. I’ve read the stories in the New Testament over and over again… but I never really paid that much attention to a certain man named Nathanael.
Until the other day. That’s when the book of John and this certain disciple of Jesus’ caught my attention like never before.
The story is told of how Philip had been invited to follow Jesus – to become one of His disciples. Philip immediately ran to find his friend Nathanael and invited him to come along as well, “We’ve found the One Moses wrote of in the Law, the One preached about by the prophets!” Philip went on excitedly telling Nathanael all about Who Jesus was and where He was from.
Nathanael was instantly cynical. He had his reasons for doubting that Jesus was Who He said He was, and I can’t say I blame him. After all, how did Philip really know what he was talking about!
His curiosity must have gotten the best of him though, because Nathanael went along to see this man called Jesus. When Jesus saw him coming, He said, “There’s a real Israelite, not a false bone in his body.”
Nathanael was surprised. After all, he had never met Jesus before this very moment, “Where did you get that idea? You don’t know me.”
Then Jesus said, “One day, long before Philip called you here, I saw you under the fig tree.”
Here the Bible says that Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God!”
Whoa! Wait a minute! Did I miss something? I mean, that’s all He had to say to convince Nathanael that He was the Son of God? “I saw you under the fig tree.”
What fig tree? Where was this all-important fig tree? And, good grief, just what happened under that fig tree?
I couldn’t get the scene out of my head! From the moment I noticed it, it played over and over in my mind. And the more I thought about, I began to see a message in it for you and I. And it’s beautiful!
What happened under that fig tree is for Jesus and Nathanael alone to tell. It was a moment so life-changing…so… so pivotal to who Nathanael was that no words were needed to describe that particular moment in time. Nathanael knew. And Jesus knew.
How I wish I could have seen it - the moment their eyes connected and froze in understanding. The… the revelation that passed between without words as they stood surrounded by so many. Whatever that fig tree represented to Nathanael, whatever their eyes told each other in that moment, it was strong enough to melt the wall around Nathanael’s soul. He believed!
Do you see it? It’s... it’s so beautiful! I struggle to find the exact words to describe how life-changing this is not only for Nathanael… but for you! For me!
Just like Nathanael, we all have fig tree moments. Each of us can remember experiences that were turning-points in our lives. For many, those pivotal moments are so intense we are tempted to doubt that God is Who He says He is.
Maybe there was abuse under the fig tree. Or perhaps it’s where a loved one said “good-bye”. Maybe the fig tree is where you learned of a betrayal. Or it’s where you’ve harbored your secret addiction. It may be that the fig tree is where you’ve mourned the loss of yet another pregnancy. Maybe it’s where you discovered that he had filed for divorce.
I don’t know what happened in your story, I only know mine, but it gives me great comfort to close my eyes and be taken to the presence of God where nothing else exists but He and I. There, where words are not necessary, my heart is melted by the knowledge that He knows! He knows what happened there beneath the fig tree. He understands the hurts… the doubts… and the pain. But more than that, He still wants me… and He still wants you! Whatever happened to Nathanael under the fig tree, it wasn’t enough for Jesus to turn him away. In fact, Jesus promised him blessings beyond his imagination simply because Nathanael chose to follow Him.
Whatever your fig tree moment, whatever your doubts, your fears, your pain… your loss, He saw you there beneath the fig tree. And He wants you to know this… He understands… and He loves you.